Q & A with Claudia Espinosa, Founder of L.O.V.E. Mentoring Program for Young Latinas in New York

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This article is part of the special editorial section called “Mentors4Teens,” which highlights positive influence to our teens thru mentors beyond mom and dad. Channel is sponsored by Ford en Español, and their #AbrochatePorAmor campaign for safe teen driving.

Claudia Espinoza, founder of L.O.V.E Mentoring Program for Young Latinas in NYC.

Claudia Espinosa, founder of L.O.V.E Mentoring Program for Young Latinas in NYC.

The Latinas On the Verge of Excellence, L.O.V.E., Mentoring Program, supports and empowers young Latinas to strive both in school and in life through positive role modeling in New York City.

We had the privilege of chatting with Claudia Espinosa, L.O.V.E.’s fierce founder, who came to New York from her native Colombia at the age of 20.

Q: What lead you to create a mentoring program for young Latinas?

A: What I’ve seen through my social work in the city, many of these young girls don’t have specific role models. Many of these young Latinas may not have exposure or info about the possibilities for their future within their environment. Many of the ones we support are first-generation Latinas going to college. Many of them were raised by single mothers, by their grandparents or in foster care.

That’s why we show young girls that there are opportunities out there for them to pursue more than what they have been expose to – beyond marrying and getting pregnant. Since most of them are the first ones in the family pursuing graduation, they aren’t exposed to the possibility of higher education. 

We recommend: 4 Ways to Find Mentors to Positively Influence Your Teen

Q. Walk us through the mentor-mentee relationship.

A. My experience is that, at the beginning, not all girls trust the mentor-mentee relationship. Some do, but others are hesitant. The trust is built when the mentor keeps coming back, by showing them this is FOR THEM, not for THEMSELVES.

But the mission isn’t only about getting girls into high school and college, is about pursuing their goals. Maybe they don’t even know what they want. And with college students as mentors that look like them but they are a little older, the age gap allows the mentee to really see themselves like them in a few years. In other mentoring programs you pair teens with adults, where you can also create a nurturing relationship, but with mentors in their 20s that are also girls can be more relatable for the girls we are trying to positively influence.

Q. What’s next for L.O.V.E?

A. I find the highest need is in New York City, but my personal goal is to build a school for young minorities. We currently have 7 on-going programs and we are always recruiting mentors, with the help of universities. If you are a women college student in NYC – or know someone who is – you can apply to be a mentor by filling out this application (and no, you don’t need to be Latina to mentor).

Learn more about L.O.V.E in this segment of Acceso Total in Telemundo 47:

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